Jewelry sweet as syrup: Freshman Maple Leung’s online store
For more than a year, freshman Maple Leung has run a popular handmade jewelry store online, syrup. She brands her business as “POC, female-run, green, 100% designed-by-me, and 100% handmade-by-me business” and hopes to bring joy to others through her work.
Leung started her store by selling her pieces to others in seventh grade because of an interest in sustainable living. In eighth grade, she officially moved to a website after a humorous incident with the principal.
“I would make these paper packets with my own jewelry and pass them around school, and it literally looked like drugs,” Leung said. “I was brought to the principal’s office; that method was not working out. So during quarantine, I made a website, made an Instagram, made everything online.”
Starting a successful store is a rather difficult process, so Leung reached out to various creators who had already established their own brand. She studied pricing and advertising strategies and, through trial and error, started gaining traction in sales.
“I got to know a few Etsy traders and said to them, ‘Hey I’m really new to this whole industry; can I set up a Zoom call with you for maybe some tips?’ because they’re really big creators,” Leung said. “They were selling to wholesalers with their own products. They gave me a lot of tips about how to do listings, how to price your products, how to undercut your costs and things like that.”
Even with advice from professionals, Leung found it challenging at first to find a unique angle for her products. However, after embracing her own personal style by adding unconventional charms to jewelry such as glass carrots or maneki-nekos, Japanese cat figurines, she began finding an audience. She names each piece after her role models, favorite characters and loved ones in her life, such as ocasio, named after Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and belinda, named after her grandma.
“At first I started marketing towards my friends, but I realized they don’t really have the same style as me so they weren’t really buying as much,” Leung said. “I was like, ‘Alright, I gotta change it up.’ So I just found a bunch of accounts with a similar style as me and followed all of their current customers. And that actually got a really good response because they were really interested in buying my products.”
Sticking to her own personal style has its perks and drawbacks. While Leung finds it sometimes difficult to stay constant in an ever-changing world of trends, she fully enjoys making her jewelry and selling them to people with the same interests.
“My whole business motto is really just making customers happier through products that they don’t regret [buying],” Leung said.
A portion of her profits are donated to an organization called The Pad Project, with which she hopes to collaborate with in the near future. The Pad Project aims to end period stigma and period-based disadvantages. It works as a volunteer organization to educate all people on menstruation and allow women easier access to education in areas suffering from “period poverty.” She chose The Pad Project after watching a documentary film titled “Period. End of Sentence.” and felt especially moved by the menstrual issues the women faced.
With the health concerns centered around the pandemic, Leung has adapted her workspace to adhere to strict hygienic guidelines.
“I have a weird setup downstairs that’s an extremely clean table that I clean every morning, at least once or twice,” Leung said. “And then I put all my products on the table and I clean all the pieces individually. I wear gloves and then make the whole thing, then I put it into the packaging and then clean everything again. And then I send it off to my local mailbox.”
Leung also shared advice for anyone looking to start their own store. From her experience, she believes that the best way to run a successful business is by asking for guidance from any already-established creator and having a clear business model and aesthetic. As sustainability is a strong principle of her work, she also advises to research where product materials come from.
“If you care about it, which I think you should, make sure you check every part of your supply chain,” Leung said. “Make sure you do research and see where you actually get your products from.”
Leung uses Eco Enclose for packaging, Halstead for her metal backings and Happy Mango Beads for her beads. However, except for special orders, she is currently taking a break due to demands from school. For the future, Leung plans to continue her business and expand to new advertising platforms such as TikTok. She hopes to connect with people through her craft.